Manchester City's renowned forward, Erling Haaland, has recently shed light on the motivation fueling his Champions League dream. However, his inspiration might strike a sour note among the City fanbase, as it's rooted in Manchester United's 2008 triumph.
This weekend, City, under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola, are set to play in their second Champions League final in three years, squaring off against Inter Milan at Istanbul's Atatürk Olympic Stadium. It's a feat that stems from their victory over current title holders Real Madrid.
Reflecting on his Champions League aspirations, Haaland opened up about how the sight of his club's crosstown rivals, Manchester United, defeating Chelsea in the 2008 final under Sir Alex Ferguson's reign sparked his dream.
"I've been envisioning Champions League victory for as long as I can recall," Haaland shared before the final. "The 2008 Chelsea-United match imprinted on me. Witnessing the exhilaration of their win, I yearned to experience that too, and now, we're on the cusp of it."
Already on a roll, Manchester City has secured both the Premier League and FA Cup this season. The squad is aiming to replicate Manchester United's 1999 feat of clinching the treble.
With an impressive tally of 52 goals in as many matches across all competitions, Haaland has indeed had a stellar inaugural season with City. His 36 goals and eight assists in 35 league matches played a pivotal role in City's successful title defense.
Interestingly, Haaland's passion for the competition dates back to his days at Red Bull Salzburg, where he was once seen playing the Champions League anthem in his car. "I'm passionate about this tournament, hence the anthem. Plus, it's a great tune!" Haaland confessed.
Haaland, who joined City in a £51 million deal from Borussia Dortmund, is acutely aware of the weight of expectations that accompany him. His mission is to fill the missing piece in City's trophy case - the Champions League.
"The squad had already secured two consecutive Premier League titles before my arrival. The one thing left is the Champions League. You can deduce why I'm here," the Norwegian forward stated.
Despite his successes, Guardiola has yet to lift the Champions League trophy with a club other than FC Barcelona. Speaking about his manager, Haaland commended Guardiola's meticulous approach, labeling him as a "detail freak." The striker expressed his joy in working with the esteemed coach and the elite squad, asserting that he still has room to grow.
Haaland's chemistry with Kevin de Bruyne, City's long-standing star player, has bolstered the team's scoring prowess. However, de Bruyne confessed that Haaland's sensational first season has led to shared limelight at home and beyond.
"All three of my children have grown their hair long like Erling, he's a superstar. I see this trend at their school too. They all are sporting the 'Haaland look'. It's amusing," de Bruyne admitted.